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This report is taken from PN Review 80, Volume 17 Number 6, July - August 1991.

Flying Rimbaud's Colours Roger Little
At the end of March, all visitors to the Salon du Livre in Paris received a poster depicting a Rimbaud for the 1990s gazing into the distance as if from a peeling wall-poster, jacket slung over the shoulder of an open-necked shirt, based on the famous Carjat photograph and proclaiming 'Les Années Rimbaud' in the plural. Jack Lang, the French Minister for Culture, explains that plural in a chain letter which he has launched ('Send a copy of your favourite Rimbaud poem to two friends ...'): the celebration of poetry should not depend on anecdotal things like anniversaries. Rimbaud is as good a reason as any to celebrate poetry sine die, but the hype over his death at Marseille a century ago contrasts ironically with the obscure misery of that moment. The official ministry list of celebrations runs to a dozen pages and probably ignores dozens of minor local events. Publishers are vying with each other to catch the market. Rimbaud is big business and therefore advertising copy (even in the British press).

Against a background of such unbalancing disproportion, it is fitting to pay tribute to Sam Hackett, more formally Professor C.A. Hackett, the scholar who has done more than anyone to sensitize the English speaking world (in particular but not exclusively) to the subtleties and mysteries of Rimbaud's poetry. He needed no anniversary to prompt his interest. His Damascus road was hearing 'Le Bateau ivre' recited when a language assistant in Paris in the early 1930s. It ...


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